Blue Jackets earn valuable points against divisional foe

Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, along with the rest of the team, know they have a rather large hill to climb if they hope to play in the post-season.

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Columbus, Ohio – Coming out of the All-Star break, it came down to a question of which team would get their legs moving first. Sloppy, sluggish play by both teams through the first movement of the dance left the outcome in doubt.

"I made the comment to the (broadcast) guys," said bench boss Todd Richards, "it looked like both teams had four or five days off. It started that way and there wasn’t a lot of emotion or engagement in the game from either side."

That all changed in second frame, as the fourth line came prepared to play and provide energy against the Washington Capitals. Right winger Corey Tropp, coming into the Capitals zone along the boards with speed, made a nice pass to center Mark Letestu in the slot. Letestu didn’t miss and gave the hometown boys a lead they would never relinquish.

"As the game got going," said Tropp," we found our legs and had great opportunities. Curtis (McElhinney) made a lot of great saves, also. For the fans, those are good hockey games to watch."

Ryan Johansen (1-0-1, +3), Fedor Tyutin (1-1-2, +2) and Cam Atkinson (1-1-2, +2) all scored for the Blue Jackets in the 4-3 win. As the game wore on, they became a much stronger team, able to control possession and the flow of the game.

"I like the way we played the third period," Richards said. "We had great opportunities, generated some chances offensively and we did a lot of good things."

They were a more disciplined lot, taking only three penalties to Washington’s five. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on those opportunities and scored all of their goals at even strength. Their consistency after scoring needs some work, as they gave up two goals immediately after scoring two separate times Tuesday night.

"Our response after goals is one thing," said Richards, "we score a goal, give up a goal the next shift. We score goal, give up a goal the next shift. And then we score a goal and give up a penalty. That’s one thing we have to get batter at."

Another milestone was reached last night when left wing Nick Foligno (0-2-2, +3) earned his second assist of the evening on Atkinson’s goal. This marked his 250th career point in the NHL, although he wasn’t aware of it after the game.

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"Really?" said Foligno. "Cool. That’s awesome."

But more importantly, getting the victory after the break to start the stretch run of the season was paramount to the team.

"It’s huge," he said. "We talked about it. We needed to get off on the right foot if we’re going to do any kind of push for the post-season. I’m proud of the guys. We found a way to win against a very good team, and keep them at bay."

They make a quick trip to Florida to take on the Panthers (Thursday) and the Lightning (Saturday), with both teams above them in the standings. While it may be a long shot, they have not given up hope that they can make a push for post-season play. You have to admire their gumption in the face of adversity.